By Nick Stohlman
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First responders all over the country are facing the unthinkable: police and first responder posts are understaffed, and true triage has become the norm.
How bad is it? According to a CNN report, the Kansas City Police Department for example is “down about 100 crucial non-law enforcement positions, including 911 dispatchers, mechanics and analysts, and down more than 200 officers.”
“We’re stretched thin,” the interim chief told CNN. “But the one thing that we can’t take away from is … emergency response.”
Hundreds of departments across the country are doing just that. They are deciding how and where to respond based on staffing issues, a challenge that may not be going away any time soon.
Staffing issues will continue
First, the bad news. The great resignation isn’t going away. The pandemic and current economic conditions have turned job seekers into something new entirely. Priorities have changed when it comes to work/life balance, and by most estimates, we won’t see a return to normalcy – or an acceptance of new paradigms – for a few years.
This means law enforcement and other first responders will have to work smarter. Thus far, the status quo has been that the sheer number of employees in most departments could paper over any concern for efficiency. When you had a hundred officers ready to converge at a trouble spot, you didn’t need to triage or even control for potential roadblocks or slowdowns.
With the fall in human resources, however, every moment is precious, and decision-making tends toward the extreme. In some cases, police officers may consider avoiding arrests because of the cost and time associated with bringing someone in. Four hours of paperwork is far less important than four hours on patrol.
But there is hope.
Tech fills holes, amplifies action
We all understand that the future of law enforcement is defined by high-tech. This also means that the current systems are not up to snuff.
A computer in every car and a central server worked in the early 2000s. Now, new cloud-based technologies allow officers to be more engaged, have better situational awareness and instantly maintain contact with pertinent data. In other words, the mobile era has come to policing and will make the staff you have more efficient and effective. Here’s how.
- The cloud improves on-the-road communication. Dispatchers can use new methods to communicate with officers in the field, including text and even augmented reality tools. Further, because the data comes instantly, officers can go into a situation quickly, calmly and fully prepared.
- The cloud keeps officers on the road. An arrest can take an officer off the road for four hours or more. By reducing the time associated with paperwork, officers can turn their attention to more important matters like community interaction. Imagine a world in which a cloud-based service can write reports for you based on dashcam and bodycam footage.
- The cloud turns us into the network. The rise of always-on devices and cloud systems can turn individual officers into nodes on a wider network. An officer can make a global request and get a dozen helpful responses, including intelligence on suspects, descriptions of locations and calls for backup. It’s like having another well-informed officer sitting on your shoulder like a guide.
- The cloud makes reports actionable. Cloud tech can take everything into consideration – an officer’s current location, third-party sources and even historical information – and turn the average report into a full-color look at the state of the force.
Emergency response must be protected at all costs – especially amid the ‘great resignation.’ The good news is that cloud technology can be the great protector. Its many benefits – from improving communication to making that communication more informed – combine to make policing speedier and more accurate. With that, officers, citizens and municipalities all win.
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About the author
Nick Stohlman is the CCO of SOMA Global, responsible for driving all revenue and maintaining customer relationships. Nick has had the pleasure of serving in public safety at the private, local, state and federal levels for over 21 years. In his career, he has held positions as a special agent in drug enforcement, chief investigator, chief deputy sheriff, and on state and federal task forces. In the private sector, Nick has held executive management positions and duties as the vice president of sales & marketing for Alert Public Safety Solutions, InterAct Public Safety Systems and Smart Public Safety Systems. He has managed the sales process for agencies from the two-user system at a local township to county, major metropolitan, state, federal and overseas projects. Follow Nick on LinkedIn.